Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid and Denver Nuggets MVP Nikola Jokic have been often pitted against each other when discussing the best big man in the NBA today. However, while Embiid is talented and can do a lot on the floor, Shaquille O’Neal believes the Joker has an edge over him.
Shaq shared as much while discussing the topic with Stephen A. Smith on Saturday. Stephen A. started it off by asserting that there are only a few people who is as good as what Embiid does on the floor.
“We look at Jokic, some would say he’s the best big man in basketball. Obviously he has the credentials, he’s the reigning NBA champion. But I tell you Shaq, when I look at it from a talent perspective, there are very few people on the planet that have been able to be what Joel Embiid is. How do you compare those two big boys?” Smith said to start the debate.
O’Neal, for his part, didn’t put one down to lift the other. Instead, he highlighted the facts and emphasized why he thinks the Nuggets superstar has the advantage for now. In the end, it boils down to one thing: championships.
“They’re both great players. If Joel doesn’t win, you’re (Stephen A. Smith) going to kill him. Joker has that edge. He’s won. Even though, you know, the numbers are different,” O’Neal explained, before noting his own experience when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was asked about him in the past and the Los Angeles Lakers legend responded with, ‘he’s pretty good, but he hasn’t won yet.’
Shaq furthered, “Joel Embiid is a fabulous talent. Definitely number one, number two. But if he doesn’t win, in this world we live in, you’re going to kill him.”
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) January 6, 2024
Does Shaquille O’Neal Make a Point in Joel Embiid-Nikola Jokic Debate?
To be fair, Shaquille O’Neal is only speaking facts here. In today’s NBA where there are a lot of talented players, winning the Larry O’Brien trophy has become another way to measure the greatness of other players.
Until one wins the title, they can never really be considered the best among the best. Both Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid have won the MVP award–with the Denver Nuggets leader having bagged it twice already–and both also dominate in their own ways. With that said, as Shaq said, the only way to differentiate them is in their title wins.
Unfortunately for Embiid, Jokic has one title to his name after leading the Nuggets to the title in the 2022-23 season.
Of course Embiid still has plenty of time to catch up, with the Philadelphia 76ers maintaining their contender status. But until they get over that hump, it will be hard to put Embiid over his biggest rival in Jokic.
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